Soft Monkey Music 2014
A well-known story as seen through the Creature’s eyes – shiny but not brilliant.
Ever since Mary Shelley’s magnum opus became a mass culture domain, the perception of it has been one of a horror tale rather than a treatise on responsibility. The best attempt to address the issue was made by Mel Brooks, in humorous terms, but such a slant rarely manifests itself in art rock, and art lies in the very heart of Nashville’s Dean Madonia’s latest endeavor, which is a double album and a graphic novel. There’s another progressive aspect to it: it’s the Monster who tells the story now, in the present, to warn a scientist against human cloning. Yet moralising doesn’t get in the way of music that, thankfully, evades the opera trap and, within the constrictions of its genre, focuses on songs to serve up the concept.
Just like its central figure, the album’s stitched from various parts – organically so, so while the smooth pop of “Wrong” scatters its sultry beats miles away from “Chimera” with its orchestral sweep or equally dramatic guitar instrumental “Murdering Elizabeth,” the delicate nostalgia of “When He Plays His Guitar” and accordion dream of “Letters From Home” sit comfortably alongside sharp riffs of the soulful “He Calls Me” and “Into the Cold,” arguably the heaviest, if cosmic, piece on offer. It’s the least expected turns that are most riveting here, and even though both “Running From The Moon” and “What I Believe” resolve in atmospheric passages, the former comes out too plastic-funky to deliver its message, whereas the latter’s similar knee-jerk seems quite elegant. Yet the vaudeville of “The Spark Of Life” sounds too much out of context to impress and loses its impetus to the strings-drenched sincerity of “The Sweetest Part Of Me.”
The more generic prog tropes are at play – as in “Fool’s Gold” which overstays its harmonic welcome, or in the piano-splashed “You Made Me” – the less intriguing it all gets. As a result, what could have been a tension-filled experience emerged as a smooth story low on memorability.